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Section 1 About Mailing Lists and LISTSERV

Section 1 About Mailing Lists and LISTSERV
The widespread use of electronic mail (email) has become an efficient, convenient, and economical way for people from all over the world to communicate. While traditional email is ideal for one-on-one interaction, email lists advance the concept a step further by disseminating a single message simultaneously to a group of people. Fast, global, and cost effective mass communication is easy with the use of email lists.
Figure 1-1 One-on-One Email Interaction
Figure 1-2 Email Lists Interaction
With email lists, companies and institutions can quickly and cost-effectively deliver thousands, even millions, of direct email messages simultaneously over the Internet. Furthermore, through database integration, messages can be personalized according to each recipient’s demographic information and preferences. Newsletters and announcements can be conveniently distributed by email to patrons, customers, distributors, and resellers. Email discussion groups can be used for interaction among co-workers in special projects and workgroups, or to keep lines of communications open between individuals scattered throughout the world working towards a common goal. Individuals can form non-commercial discussion forums on just about any imaginable topic of interest, from hobbies to health support groups. The possibilities of how email lists can be used for communication among groups of people are virtually endless. See the Case Studies page on L-Soft’s Web site for real-life examples:
LISTSERV is an email list management software program. Email list management software makes it easy to administer email lists, performing in seconds the functions that would otherwise have to be done manually, possibly taking many hours or days to complete. Introduced in 1986 on BITNET, LISTSERV was the first software program to automate the administration of email lists. It is the most time-tested and reliable email list management product on the market today.
In order to use LISTSERV, the software must be installed on a server with a dedicated connection to the Internet. LISTSERV is available for a variety of server operating systems.
Once LISTSERV is installed on a server and running, it can:
Handle list subscriptions and signoffs (leaving the list).
Allow subscribers to alter their subscription settings, or owners to alter them on the subscriber’s behalf.
Distribute email to all list subscribers.
Accumulate messages to be sent as periodic “digests”.
Save list messages in a searchable archive (sometimes referred to as “notebooks”).
Automatically handle communication between members and owners of lists.
Report on the activity of mailing lists.
Allow list owners to control the character and behavior of their list(s).
Automatically process bounces (message delivery errors).
Be used with an external database to send targeted, personalized e mail messages.
When a list is set up, an email address is created for the list, which is then used to send or “post” messages to the list. Once a message is sent, it is delivered to the central server where L-Soft’s LISTSERV (the mailing list management software) resides. The software then completes the operation by automatically distributing the message to all subscribers on the list, in the manner indicated by their subscription options.
Figure 1-3 Path of LISTSERV Message
Who are the people involved?
There are five main classifications of people who can interact with LISTSERV. Each classification has a differing level of responsibility for its role and interaction with the software. Figure 1-4 below illustrates the hierarchy of these classifications. It also represents the relative number of people who fit into each classification.
Figure 1-4 People Who Can Interact with LISTSERV
The LISTSERV maintainer is the technical person in charge of the LISTSERV application on a particular server. The LISTSERV maintainer may not be in charge of the entire server, but should have privileged access to the computer and know where to get help if there is a problem with the hardware, software, or network connection. The LISTSERV maintainer:
Oversees the administration of dozens or even hundreds of different lists, but is usually not involved with the content of individual lists.
Has the responsibility for creating new lists and assigning list ownership.
Is implicitly an owner of all lists – has access to all list owner functions, all archives, and log files.
Allocates disk space and sets the path and folders to store information related to the lists.
Provides assistance to owners of the lists on the server.
Ensures that list owners abide by the site’s appropriate use policies.
Ensures that LISTSERV is up and functioning correctly, with a working connection to the Internet.
The list owner is the person formally in charge of the operation of a specific list. The list owner is usually knowledgeable in the field covered by the list. There can be more than one list owner for a list. The responsibility of the list owner is limited to the list itself, and does not include the computer running the list, its mail system, network lines, and other hardware specifics. List owners:
Set and change the configuration of the list.
Add, delete, and modify subscriptions to the list.
Assist subscribers and potential subscribers.
Set policies, procedures related to the list, and send administrative messages to the list.
Run reports on list activity.
A list moderator may or may not be the list owner as well. There can be more than one list moderator for a list, and some lists have none. Moderators receive incoming messages sent to a moderated list and determine whether they should be distributed to the list. List moderators:
Approve messages to be posted to the list.
Stop inappropriate messages from being sent to the list.
May edit the content of messages before sending them to the list.
List subscribers are people who have requested and have been granted permission to join a particular mailing list. Subscribers:
Can leave a list.
Can set the way they receive list postings or change the name or email address associated with their subscription, within the configuration limits set by the list owner.
May be permitted to search and view the archives.
May be permitted to send messages to the list, depending on the type of list.
Non-subscribers include everyone not subscribed to a list. Non-subscribers:
Can make a request to LISTSERV to be subscribed to a particular list.
Depending on the list configuration, they may or may not be allowed to send messages to a list or read its archives.